How do you know if interior design is the career for you? There might be signs – such as compliments on your sense of style and how you put your home together. Or maybe you spend hours on Planner 5D, creating imaginative interiors. If you have a keen interest in furniture and design, it's a career path worth considering.
If you're not able to travel to study, you could start your interior design career at a distance. Planner 5D design school
, for example, offers 9 interactive lessons to get you started. This guide will show you ways to start your career from home and address the realities and challenges of becoming an interior designer.
What does an interior designer do?
It's a fair question – what does an interior designer actually do? The function of their job is to make the inside of a building safe, practical, and beautiful.
If you become an interior designer, your responsibilities might include:
- Finding projects and bidding on them. Approaching clients and convincing them to hire your firm requires excellent interpersonal and budgetary skills.
- Assessing the needs of the client and what's possible within the space. Not only do you need good spatial awareness, but you also need to be able to express clearly and accurately what's realistic within a client's budget.
- Planning designs for rooms (including plumbing, electricity, and other technical details). This is the creative part! How are you going to set up, furnish, and decorate the room?
- Source materials according to budget. You need to be adaptable and inventive if you find that your chosen item isn't available or is outside the budget.
- Oversee construction and plans. It's essential to keep the client's project going as planned, and to liaise with parties when something doesn't go according to plan.
- Check client is satisfied. This might mean guiding the client around the space and answering any final queries.
Of course, depending on who you work for (or if you work for yourself!), your job might vary slightly. Whatever your duties, you'll need to learn about design and what looks good together, you'll need to have excellent interpersonal skills and be flexible – it's not necessarily a 9-5 job.
How to become an interior designer
If you think you have the personality you need to become an interior designer, take the necessary steps to make it your vocation.
Interior design firms will usually expect you to have at least a bachelor's degree. This requirement will provide you with a wealth of skills and knowledge you'll be able to use throughout your career. You might also need to take licensing exams or acquire certification – we'll cover this in more detail later, but check what is required in your state or country.
As well as formal education, you should keep your skills up-to-date. Make sure you're au fait with new software and best practice in your field.
You will also need a portfolio to showcase your design work. Whether or not it's included in your interior design degree requirements, it's an essential part of your work. Build a portfolio online to show off what you can do.
Finally, keep up to date with all the latest trends. Clients usually want fashionable interiors, and knowing what's on-trend means being able to incorporate it into your designs in a timeless, skillful way. Additionally, being aware of different styles and art means you can stand out by creating your own niche, whether that's sustainability, Scandi-inspired minimalism, or something else.
What are the basics of interior design?
We've mentioned what it is that an interior designer does, but what do you need to know about first and foremost? The following are some of the basics, but remember, the list doesn't end here!
You need to know what's possible in the area you're designing. How does the space work? What function should it serve? A good interior designer will be able to fill a room in a way that not only looks beautiful, but that takes into account all of the less glamorous aspects, including plumbing and wiring. The space needs to be accessible, flow, and look balanced.
As an interior designer, you will need to know the associations that come with each color. For example, red might evoke passion in some people, while green creates a sense of calm. Color is a vital element when creating an atmosphere in a space.
As well as associations, you'll need to know which colors work better in spaces with little light, small spaces, larger spaces, and more. Study which color schemes go together, and learn how to break the rules tastefully!
Another essential part of interior design is light. You need to know how to take natural lighting into account – where might you place a window? Where does the light fall during the day?
Learning the different functions that lighting has is also very helpful. The light you use to read might differ from one used for showcasing a painting or object. Lighting will also vary depending on whether they're used decoratively or to light a whole room.
Get familiar with the effects of different lamp shapes and colors, and how they interplay with furniture and texture. Shadows can be just as important as the lighting you use.
Textures & Pattern
There are two main types of texture in interior design: visual and tactile. Visual texture is what we mean when we talk about patterns. It creates a lot of interest for the eye and can stand in for other materials.
Tactile textures are ones you can feel. Think of a soft rug underfoot, or the smooth leather of a couch. It's worth knowing how to use textures effectively, whether it's merely drawing the eye or creating an immersive experience.
Who is the best interior designer in the world?
It's hard to quantify who the best interior designer in the world is! It really depends on who you ask.
If the best designer is a prolific one, names such as Cecil Hayes and Kelly Wearstler spring to mind. Wearstler, for example, was described by The New Yorker as 'the presiding grande dame of West Coast interior design." Other designers for the stars include Martyn Lawrence Bullard, Kesha Franklin, and Axel Vervoordt.
Good interior designers don't just design for the rich and famous. Some are more geared towards making good design accessible. Queer Eye fans might recognize Bobby Berk and his playful, youthful style. His blog is full of great ideas that work for a variety of budgets and spaces.
How do I become a certified interior decorator?
More into aesthetics than structural issues? Being an interior decorator might be for you. It differs from the work of an interior designer, whose work focuses on the structure and problem-solving in creating and furnishing a space.
An interior decorator, however, deals solely with how a room looks. Their work might include placing furniture, painting or papering walls, placing accessories. Interior designers often need a license, whereas this isn't necessary for interior decorators.
That doesn't mean you can't obtain a license. If you want to get certified, you can do this through Certified Interior Decorators International. Either follow a CID-accredited decorating program or submit yours to the CID for review. Some accredited schools allow you to study online.
How long is interior design school?
Depending on the qualification you want to study, the length of interior design school can vary. Bachelor's degrees are generally 3-4 years long. If you already have a degree and are considering a master's, this will take 1-2 years. Online courses often take longer. If you need a taster, why not try out Planner 5D's design school
? It’s 9 lessons long and gives you the chance to learn more.
Online interior design degree
Many universities offer online degrees. These include The Academy of Art University in San Francisco and the National Design Academy in the UK.
There are advantages and disadvantages to doing an online degree. It might be cheaper than studying in person, not only due to the price of the course, but also because you won't need to travel. As these courses are designed to do from home, you won't miss out on what other students are getting – and so many resources are being put online nowadays. It also often gives you the option do follow the course at a pace that suits you.
However, these courses can still be expensive. It also requires a lot of self-motivation, and you don't get the same social atmosphere you might have when studying a degree in person. It can also take longer – if you're doing it part-time, you might not finish at the same speed as a full-time student.
For a shorter course, give Planner 5D’s Interior Design School
a try. 9 lessons mean it’s long enough for you to learn the basics, but a good option if you don’t have too much time available.
Is interior design a good career?
It depends on what you mean by 'good!' If your passion is interior design, then yes, definitely!
There are, however, many things to bear in mind. Like many creative industries, it is a very competitive field. Use your imagination to stand out and be persistent. If you have a niche, that's great! Otherwise, consider what makes you better than the rest, and keep your portfolio up-to-date.
Although you have your own tastes and style, you might find that you have to put that aside from time to time. The client is paying and therefore has the final say.
It is possible to earn good money as an interior designer, and it offers high job satisfaction. Interior design is a great career choice if you're motivated and willing to put in the effort. Try it out with Planner 5D Design School
to see if it could be for you.
Do interior designers get paid well?
You might be wondering what you can expect to earn as an interior designer. This depends on your location and your experience.
In the US, the median salary for an interior designer is $51,500. This can start out at $28,000, and reach $91,000 for more senior positions.
Professional interior design software
If you want to become a professional interior designer, you'll need to learn to use the software that comes with it. These include software from Autodesk, SketchUp Pro, Infurnia, and more. Planner 5D is a great place to start!
So if you think you could be the next Bobby Berk, consider a career in interior design. There are plenty of ways to see if it's for you – try out the Planner 5D Design School
for a taste of what it's like to be an interior designer.
If you're thinking about becoming an interior designer, let us know! And if you've studied online to become one, share with us your favorite resources on Instagram and in the comments below.